Holyport College Library - Spaceoasis

Holyport College Library

The little library with a big heart: how Holyport College transformed a disused space into a sanctuary for students (and books)

For an academic, ambitious and joyous school, the lack of a library at Holyport College, a state boarding and free school in Berkshire which opened in 2014 was, in the words of former Head Master Ben McCarey, “utterly criminal”.
With limited space and lacking the funds needed for a new building in which to house a library, the team at Holyport College, which is in an educational partnership with Eton College, found a more creative solution.

The Challenge

When the medical facility was relocated, the idea of using some of the space to house a small library took shape.

Removing some walls increased the floor area and opened the space up leaving a quirky room with columns, recesses and adjoining offices. Making it work as a library was going to be a challenge. Having worked with Spaceoasis before on the College’s Centre for Innovation,

Research and Learning Centre and the music room, the Bursar Roz Doctor, called them back in to help. After visiting the school and listening to understand their culture, values and vision for the space, Spaceoasis presented initial designs and worked with the school to refine them.

“Libraries should be sanctuaries.”

The school’s vision for the library was that it should be a sanctuary, not simply a room containing books. Somewhere that was suitable for Sixth Form students working on their university applications but also where junior years would be comfortable to sit and read, do some homework or just take a minute for themselves.

It was important that it felt welcoming. It also needed to be space that, even in dark and rainy weather, felt warm, inviting and natural as well as housing around 8,000 books.

Natural Beauty

Spaceoasis designed a space that was both beautiful and practical, installing high-quality, made-to-measure furniture that fits perfectly in the nooks and crannies of the space with a flawless finish.

A long, curved bookshelf at the heart of the library prevents the room from becoming a corridor, and means people have to slow down and walk past the books, so they might see something that catches their eye.

Individual round tables, upholstered stools, booth seating and larger tables for small groups are dotted around the space so people can find a quiet spot to be by themselves or choose to sit with friends.

Upholstered ‘sheep’ stools add a sense of fun and whimsy, (although they keep being moved around the school so can be hard to find!).


Natural Wood Finishes

Natural wood finishes on the floor and table-tops, along with a muted colour palette of blue and green fabrics contribute to the sense of calm.

Plants, including an olive tree and miniature citrus trees, as well as realistic astro-turf on top of the bookshelves, enhance the space by bringing nature inside and expressing the high expectations the school has of its pupils, trusting them to treat this beautiful space with respect.

One wall features a large print of a photograph, taken by a member of staff, of the school taken through a sun-dappled wildflower meadow, adding to the sense of light and space.

A Space For The Kids To Feel Safe

“We wanted it to be somewhere pupils could come and feel safe,” explained Ben McCarey.

“The library is a space where pupils can come and read or just sit and relax, and for pupils who just like being around books. We are absolutely delighted with it, particularly how nature is an integral part of the space, which all started from the design ideas from Spaceoasis.”


“One word that comes up a lot from the students who use this space is ‘calm’,” said Roz Doctor.

“The colours, the finishes and the quality of the furniture all contribute to that, it is a very tranquil place to be. Spaceoasis really listened to us, they didn’t impose their own ideas, they listened to what we wanted and the designs they created for us were exactly what we needed.

It has surpassed our expectations. I think it’s my favourite space in the school!”

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